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Full text of "Rapid Population Growth Consequences And Policy Implications"

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extreme, rich parents might view children as instruments for intergenerational (positive) transfers of wealth and the means for perpetuating family influence.
In either case, however, the death of all family heirs might constitute a grave loss to parents. The strong desire to perpetuate the family could cause parents to shift family resources to the support of additional children while they lower their investments in each child as insurance against the family's dying out.*
Clearly, a principal attraction of children as instruments of investment is that a child draws upon resources when they are relatively plentiful and provides a return source of support in old age when the productive capacity of parents is meager and uncertain. Since one general motivation for savings and investment is to level out one's lifetime consumption by giving up consumption in periods of abundance to assure necessary consumption in periods of low earnings, this convenient timing of child costs and returns certainly plays a role in parent demand for children in all cultures.' Nevertheless, parents have uncertain claims on their children's future earnings, even in a traditional family-oriented society; therefore, parents may discount children heavily as reliable investments for their own future support. In a stagnant economic setting where there are few opportunities for parents to invest in tangible assets, children may appear attractive as a pecuniary investment for the future. Conversely, where high returns are anticipated from tangible investments, children may be sought only to fulfill nonpecuniary needs of the parents. How parents perceive the limits of the family as an instrument for investment is modified by cultural, institutional, and legal factors, such as inheritance laws, traditional family structure and values, and customs that impinge on marriage transfers and family identity, such as dowries and bride prices (21).
Variable Child Costs: A Crucial Decision. The costs of child rearing are not fixed, particularly in low income, tradition-bound regions. First the parents decide how much to invest in their offspring, and later the child himself may invest further in the development of his productive capacity. In some sense there may be a minimum level of support during a minimum period when a child is completely dependent. But in most developing regions, at a very early age a child becomes potentially capable of contributing to family resources, even though modest increments to his support and nutrition may prove to
*See (13) for a more complete discussion of the treatment of uncertainty in the demand for children.
'The life-cycle savings hypothesis is discussed and tested against data in a number of recent studies (14-17) and the related survivorship motivation for fertility is explored by various techniques by other investigators (18-20).ore recently, subsidized stuc legal mechanisms to redress this institutional shortcoming of the famil; of view of society's long-run welfare.ive the relationship, then one might argue the nonpecuniary returns to additional children had become strongly negative.